Camera obscura

“Iridescent splinters and liquified crumbs
Of my punished spirit
Have ceased to gush beyond
Its ever more towering walls.
I am sentenced to bear
The remnants of my existence
In the darkness of a cave
Whose entrances have crashed
-It seems for eons-
Into silent chasms.
I am sentenced to cast shadows
On frozen barriers
Only with the flames
Of my smouldering eyes.
Still, mortals’ lifetimes have passed
Since I have forsaken the desire
To scratch messages of despair
On these labyrinthine corridors,
Ask for celestial mercy
Or howl in pain
So that I would let myself be fooled
By a phantom echo into believing
There are others trapped as well.
No more do I gather crumbs
Of evanescent light
Filtered through titanic stones
Which seem to bear entire worlds
On their colossal shoulders.
No more do I seek answers
Which do not spring from within.
My hidden dreams are nurtured
Until they substitute
My bleak reality.
Thus do I not weep
For the life I have forsaken,
As I live in the realm
Forged by my shimmering thoughts.”
The Wanderer’s pondering
Is suddenly arrested
As the aureole of a masterful being
Whose strength of mind
Bears no mortal boundaries
Floods the darkness of the cavern.
“The mirror has faded,”
The Wanderer sighs.

Enshrined in solemn contemplation,
A sphinx beholds the world
Through marble eyes
And painted thoughts.
In the rhythm of raw eternity,
She shields the globe’s gargantuan spin
From our gathering gaze.
Her haunting lidless glance
Has touched many a light and shadow,
Creeping into the blackened crevices
Of countless lost souls.
Yet none could answer her riddle
And thus were consumed
Into whispering ash.
The treacherous query
Flooding the statuesque lips
Of the Marble-Eyed Seer
Ran thus:
“What wanes with the ageing of the heart,
Feeds Man’s greatest fears and hopes,
And dwells in the serpentine passageway
Between Palpable and Dream?
Tell me, young pilgrim,
What is life’s greatest adornment
And I shalt free thee of thine damnation.
Wrong me not, for if thee does,
Thine heart shalt belong to the Abyss
No life can ever cling to”.

Her first visit was to a soul
Whose majestic blinking life
Was spent in the belief
That its mighty rule
Would scar the world
For a thousand years.
Its retribution had been
To forever bear its wounded’s pain,
The agonizing waste of spirit
Its will had sentenced,
The crushed hopes
That it would live evermore.
As the Seer approached,
Gilding its gloom from afar,
The soul moaned,
“My future is dimly lit,
So feel free to bring a candle”.
It claimed the answer to the riddle
Was “Ambition – it gives life to legend,
Drives Man to surpass all boundaries,
Cripples the weak and favours the visionary.”
No sooner had its thoughts taken wing
Than Oblivion swept off the sand
In its fleeting hourglass
And bore its existence
Into Nothingness.

Another millennial cage
Succumbed to the Seer’s will,
Opening like the petals
Of a weak flower
Kept too much in the shade.
Another soul
Plagued by desires too great
Slowly melted
Into the vastness
Of a cadaverous plain,
Bereft of horizon,
Of scars,
Of silhouettes.
When questioned,
Its broken face
Beamed with pride and delight.
“Beyond the shadow of a doubt,
Thirst for Knowledge is my answer,
For it nurtures
Both fright of the unknown,
Of the absurd, of the unplanned,
And hope to someday ensnare
The powers of the world,
Humbling them to our own will.
The quest for certitudes
Will set the crown upon the brow
Of a Man
No longer chasing chimaeras in the dark,
But grasping new strengths
On every flash of light
Shed upon the universe.”
The Seer snarled,
“In thine eyes,
To know is to enslave.
Yet proof shalt I grant thee
That there are powers
One could never challenge.
Away with thee,
A swirl of pallid dust
Clad the spirit
Into a moaning haze,
Its very last gasp.

“What mirror is that
Which fadest in thine eyes?”,
A glittering voice
From beyond earthly eons
Shed light upon the raven walls.
“I have always wondered
Whether the universe is merely a mirror,
A vast, broken mirror,
Whose distorted reflections
We who perish take for granted.
Perhaps our every step is guided
By unseen forces,
Concealed beyond its deceiving glass,
Who keep us from cutting ourselves
In its splinters.”
“Hast death answered thine doubts?”
“Nay. Your entrance
Past the walls of my damnation
Has proven the wisdom of my thoughts.
Only brought me closer
To my entangled mind.
Only gave me time
To weave an inner world
Sheltered from the deafening growl
Of damned civilisation.
My own,
My very own,
Camera obscura.”
“Share the colours of thine world!”
“I see hieroglyph birds
Sketched upon clouds,
Clouds which are in fact
Spirits of old
Whose wild, dreamlike orbits
Spin so swiftly they become blurred
To our human grasp.
The stars I see
Flooding the skies
With silvery silk
Are actually the relics
Of Argus’s charmed glance.
They are guardians sent from afar,
So eager to convince us
There is nothing beyond
Their flickering wings of flame.
The rivers of the wind,
In twisting swirls and harsh voices,
Gather all the feelings of the world
And then crash with incantatory wails,
Giving shape to hovering temples.
I dare to paint each sunrise
With the piercing rays
Of a human’s iris
And each tranquil lake
With radiant feathers
Stolen from goddesses’ wings.
I see your eyes
As footsteps of moonbeams,
So translucid
That I recognise myself mirrored
In their vast shimmering halls,
Yet so strikingly consistent
That I feel I could cling to their rays
And swiftly take to the air.”
A gleaming yet terrible smile
Fluttered across her lips:
“What mirror is that
Which keeps mortals’ doom
From the rivers of eternity?
Solve my riddle, youthful pilgrim,
And I shalt break the mirror
Between thine dreams and thine damnation.
Thine creation shalt draw breath
In unison with its artisan.
What sayest thee?”
“And if I fail?”
“The Abyss awaits.”
“Alas! I have lived a thousand lives,
I have vanquished sufferance,
I have unleashed my farthest visions.
Your tempting offer
Is the only one I wish to conquer still.
I envisage the depths of my deed,
And I accept!”

Little pondering had the Wanderer spent
On the riddle that had claimed so many souls
When he decided to speak once more:
“’Tis Imagination,
That which only the heart can diminish,
That which exists neither in dream nor in reality,
That which strengthens our fear of the unknown
And grants, to artists, inspiration,
To lovers, glimpses of perfection,
To inventors, the gift of shifting the world’s course,
To paupers, lives of careless kings,
To the blind, sight beyond eye’s measure,
To storytellers, the power to make listeners
Submerge into his realm of mystery and mischief.
I cannot think of a greater adornment
Life has bestowed upon our humble being.”
The marble eyes twinkled with brief delight.
“Thy wits have not failed thee yet.
He who gave the answer
To mine harshest riddle
Is liberated
From the gods’ twiddling caprice,
From Death’s tightening grasp,
From deceiving mirrors
And mirrored deceptions.
Let the curtain lift!”
Wings of white flame
Gently laid the Wanderer’s thoughts
Upon the barren ground,
Where they took shape
As sky, as sea, as earth,
Swiftly eroding
The once impenetrable walls of old.
A thousand Sisyphus rolled their stones
For the very last time,
Crumbling the foundations of the perished cave.
The thunderous roar of crippled rock
Echoed victoriously in the pounding
Of the Wanderer’s regained heartbeats.
When the wings of flame
Finally gave birth
To the Silence
Of innocent beginnings,
The Marble-Eyed Seer,
Drowned in her tears
Of wisdom and late endings,
Whispered, “It is finished.”
And then she felt,
She knew,
She was
No more.

The unblemished aura
Of a thousand years of shaping
Reflected rays
From the very furnaces
Of the Wanderer’s mind.
His own,
His very own
Camera obscura
Breathed in a single sigh
Alongside its creator.